"I, A Stranger And Afraid In A World I Never Made"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In the poem "The Laws of God, the Laws of Man" A. E. Housman expresses his bitterness toward rigid rules that are set up for the conduct of man. The poet, unconventional in his own life, rebels and asks only that he be granted the power to make his own laws. Just as the laws of man and God would condemn him for his actions, so would he judge harshly of some of their deeds. Then the poet asks, "Yet when did I make laws for them?" The poet's argument is that according to the way the world is run, might makes right. God and man are able to make their laws prevail because "though both are foolish, both are strong." Rebellious man, though, is trapped on the planet where he was born, and, unable to flee to another planet, he must try to conform to "these foreign laws of God and man." The following lines express the feeling of the poet toward rules that are not based on man's nature:

And how am I to face the odds
Of man's bedevilment and God's?
I, a stranger and afraid
In a world I never made.
They will be master, right or wrong;
Though both are foolish, both are strong.